CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Thursday upheld the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs, loyal to RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran, by the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal and vacated the stay on holding by-elections to the Assembly constituencies represented by them. The much-awaited verdict came as a breather to the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami-led AIADMK government and strengthened the CM’s position within his party.
Justice M Sathyanarayanan, in his verdict, said that on an independent application of mind to the materials placed before him, he found that the Speaker’s order was in accordance with the Constitution. Justice Sathyanarayanan was nominated by the Supreme Court as the third judge after the first bench of the Madras HC, comprising then Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar, delivered a split verdict on June 14.
Palaniswami’s standing in the party, boosted by the verdict, was seen as party leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, made a beeline to greet him with bouquets at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai, even as cadres staged celebrations across the State. A jubilant Palaniswami told reporters that the verdict was a god-given one and that the AIADMK was ready to face the by-elections at any time. Indeed, the ruling AIADMK now faces the daunting prospect of a mini-general election in the form of bypolls to the 18 seats as well as to the two Assembly seats lying vacant due to the death of representatives.
The verdict came as a shocker for the disqualified MLAs who have been camping at a resort in Courtallam near Tirunelveli. Dhinakaran, founder of the breakaway Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, maintained his cool, cautiously saying, “It is not a setback. Will take a decision as to whether to challenge the verdict before the Supreme Court.”
“We have three options: either face by-elections, challenge the verdict or move the SC while facing by-elections. It depends on the decision of the disqualified MLAs,” Raja Senthoor Pandian, their counsel for the disqualified MLAs, explained.
Meanwhile, with the disqualification of the 18 MLAs being upheld, the effective strength of the Tamil Nadu Assembly is now 214 making the simple majority required to win a confidence motion 108. As the ruling party has the guaranteed support of 109 members (leaving aside three allies who won on AIADMK tickets — two of whom are undecided while one opposes the party— and three AIADMK members who openly support TTV) to win such a motion, the government will not face any difficulty for the time being. For this reason, the principal opposition party DMK, which with its allies has 97 seats, is unlikely to move a no-confidence motion. DMK president M K Stalin told mediapersons the Election Commission should hold bypolls to all 20 vacant seats at the earliest.
The Election Commission recently postponed notification of bypolls to the vacant Thirupparankundram and Thiruvarur seats after the State said onset of North East monsoon would require full mobilisation of State machinery.